Cardiac Nats, baby!
While Gio Gonzalez struggled through five slow, torturous innings, the Washington Nationals would eventually come through in the clutch, taking Game 1 of the 2012 NLDS by a score of 3-2 Sunday afternoon in a thriller over the St. Louis Cardinals. Ryan Mattheus would deservedly earn the win after managing to get out of a bases-loaded-none-out jam in the 7th unscathed.
You could certainly tell that the Cardinals were the more experienced playoff team from the beginning, as minus a tough 2nd inning, starter Adam Wainwright played a terrific ballgame. The Nats would take an early 1-0 lead following an Adam LaRoche walk, Ian Desmond single, and Kurt Suzuki RBI single that certainly brought Washington fans to their feet in the pouring rain back home. After that, however, Mr. Wainwright would settle into a groove and give up just six total hits through a five and two-thirds-innings outing. In addition, he’d walk just three and strike out a whopping ten batters in the process. The Nationals had a few opportunities to score additional runs in both the 2nd and 6th innings with the bases loaded, yet Jayson Werth would fail to convert on either occasion.
Following the opening Suzuki RBI in the top of the 2nd, it wouldn’t take long for the Cardinals to respond. Actually, it was more like Gio shooting himself in the foot that kept the Cardinals in the game. In the bottom half of the 2nd, Gonzalez would walk three straight batters to quickly load the bases. He clearly looked anxious, and, even following a trip by pitching coach Steve McCatty, would continue to struggle as the game rolled on. On just the very next pitch, Gio would throw one out of Suzuki’s reach that allowed Yadier Molina to score from third. After another walk, this time to the pitcher Wainwright, outfielder John Jay would hit a deep ball to left field that allowed another Cardinal to score and give St. Louis a 2-1 lead.
For the next few innings, neither offense could get into a rhythm and the closest either team would come to scoring was the Cards in the 7th. However, as aforementioned, Mattheus was able to come in for a struggling Craig Stammen and hold the lead at 2-1 following a bases-juiced situation.
It would be none other than pinch-hitting rookie, Tyler Moore, to come through for Washington in the top of the 8th. Michael Morse was able to quickly reach base on an error by shortstop Pete Kozma, followed by a Desmond single that got Morse to third. After Danny Espinosa managed to do something other than strike out as he lay down a perfect sacrifice bunt, Mr. Moore would drive in the final two runs the Nats would need. 3-2 is your final, and the Nats will look to take a 2-0 series lead tomorrow as they play one more in St. Louis before returning to DC.
Champ of the Game: Tie goes to Moore and Desmond, as both came up huge in order to seal this win. Desmond went 3-4 with a run scored, and Moore was 1-1 with the two game-winning RBIs.
For the Cardinals, Wainwright was sharp. He now has 23 strikeouts in just three Division Series playoff starts.
Chump of the Game: Gotta go to Werth for the Nats. Stranded six runners and went just 1-5 with three strikeouts in this opening playoff game.
Most will be surprised postgame how absent clean-up hitter Allen Craig was this afternoon. Craig failed to reach base en route to an 0-4 outing.